Alberta First Nations file human rights complaint over supports for adults with disabilities

CALGARY – Representatives of three First Nations in southern Alberta have filed a lawsuit against the federal government for alleged discrimination against adults with developmental disabilities.

The Siksika, Piikani and Kainai or Blood Tribe First Nations complaint, which was filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, accuses Indigenous Services Canada of “systemic discrimination” against adult members with disabilities.

Siksika County Tracy McHugh said federal supports are available for children with disabilities who live on reservations until age 18. After that, families can stay on reserve without support or they can access help through Alberta’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities program. But to get those provincial supports, they would have to leave the reserve.

« None of these choices are ideal. None of these choices is something a parent or guardian should have to make, » McHugh said.

“They have to leave the reservation, and we come from a predominantly poor people, and we ask them to uproot everything to move and leave their families behind,” she added.

“You leave a lot of that culture behind… to go and get funding. It creates isolation. This creates difficulties. »

McHugh said his sister was injured in a riding accident as a teenager and the family had been battling for support for a long time.

Given that reserves fall under federal jurisdiction, she said, it is up to Indigenous Services Canada to scale up and establish stable and equitable funding for the creation of comprehensive and comprehensive programs, supports and services. culturally appropriate to meet the needs of Blackfoot Nations.

McHugh said the Siksika board raised the issue during a private meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last June.

« It’s a long time coming. A very, very long time ahead,” McHugh said.

“Every government has failed our people with developmental disabilities on reserve. My sister was injured when she was 14. She is 42 now. It has been almost 30 years and governments have changed many times.

Blood Tribe County Tony Delaney said it’s about fairness and what’s best for people with disabilities, without taking them away from their family or culture.

“They are, I believe, our most vulnerable people. And sometimes they don’t have a voice and we want to be that voice for all of them,” Delaney said.

“When they turn 18, they basically have to leave the reserve and move to surrounding towns to get the services that all Albertans enjoy. We could do much better by taking care of our own.

Indigenous Services Canada said it is aware of the complaint but has not received details.

“The ministry takes allegations of discrimination very seriously. As details are received by the ministry, ISC will take the time to review them carefully,” spokeswoman Megan MacLean said in an email.

“Supporting the health and well-being of First Nations communities and individuals is a top priority for Indigenous Services Canada. We remain committed to working with all partners to close the gaps and improve access to the supports and services people need.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 13, 2022.


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